Miramax Films has ended its 14-year Canadian distribution relationship with Toronto-based Alliance Films. On April 11, the US distributor released Smart People in Canada through its status as a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios.

It marks the end of a second long-term relationship for Alliance, following the February decision by Time-Warner to downsize New Line Cinema and bring its international releasing into the Warner Bros. International fold.

Alliance chairman Victor Loewy told Screen International he declined to renew the deal because Miramax was seeking higher fees unjustified by the performance of Miramax titles of late.

While the latest output deal expired at the end of 2007 and had continued on a film-by-film basis thus far this year, Loewy said the relationship changed when Walt Disney Studios bought out the share of Harvey and Bob Weinstein in 2005. He added that the company had lost what he termed 'big money' since new management had taken over.

A Miramax spokesperson confirmed Smart People, starring Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker, was the first film the company has released in Canada since the expiration. Miramax is dealing directly with Toronto-based publicity company Allied Advertising (no relation), the agency that releases and promotes all Walt Disney Studios films in Canada. Miramax picked the film up in January 2007 from London-based Groundswell Productions.

Under Canadian cultural protection policy, only the Hollywood studios can release third-party pickups in Canada. Hence, companies allied with studios - such as New Line through Time-Warner's Warner Bros. and Miramax through Disney - can self-distribute pick-ups. In addition, only a distributor that holds 50% of the copyright of a film can self-distribute in Canada.

Asked if the Miramax move might have been triggered by the Time Warner changes, Loewy expressed doubt. 'The New Line business plan was different. It was to mitigate risk. Disney has never released product through an independent distributor in any country other than Canada.'

Miramax first signed an output deal with Alliance in 1995 after jumping from CFP, the precursor company of Lions Gate Films. Miramax is rumoured to be in discussions with Maple Pictures, which was originally the Canadian releasing division of Lions Gate. Miramax declined to comment on the rumour.

Alliance has an output deal with The Weinstein Co.